Contributor corner: Neil Steinberg

Neil steinbergNeil Steinberg is a columnist on staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He has also written for Esquire, Granta, Rolling Stone, Forbes, Sports Illustrated, the Washington Post, the New York Daily News and many other publications. The author of seven books, his most recent, You Were Never in Chicago, was published by the University of Chicago Press, which is also publishing his next book, Out of the Wreck I Rise: A Literary Companion to Recovery, written with Sara Bader and due out in the spring of 2016. He writes daily on his aptly named blog

Twitter: @neilsteinberg

What is your feature about?

It’s about the difficulties people who are disfigured must deal with as they confront the world. They are a truly marginalised group, and I wondered whether they were making the kind of progress that others have made at being better understood and accepted by society. I focus on the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Craniofacial Center, and use my own unease as a kind of narrative arc, to show how the apprehension that many feel toward the disfigured evaporates with familiarity, as the humanity that each of us has shines through outward appearances.

What did you learn that you didn’t expect?

I thought that plastic surgery was a relatively modern phenomenon, and was surprised to discover that it goes back many centuries. The care and effort required when creating even a simple facial prosthetic – an ear, for instance – was something I had never considered, and seemed truly extraordinary. I was impressed and humbled by the positive, often cheery, attitudes of the disfigured people I spoke with, how they accepted their situations and overcame them, to the best of their ability.

Read Neil's feature on Mosaic, publishing 23 June 2015.